Penn State Wrestling: A Value-Added Powerhouse
Cael Sanderson contributes so much to Penn State that an NFL coach had to find out how he does it.
A rather unusual exchange took place this week. The Buffalo Bill’s head coach Sean McDermott, who is taking his team to the NFL playoffs, mentioned in a press conference that he’d made it a point to visit Penn State wrestling head coach Cael Sanderson to observe how he ran his program.
From the transcript:
“Ton of respect for Cael (Sanderson). You look at not only his wrestling career, and what he has been able to do, but what he’s been able to accomplish in the next chapter (as a coach). The culture he has built. Not only what they have done but how they have done it. I spent some time with Cael and his staff, just observing more than anything. The habits they have, and the environment around the program. It’s really how an elite coach prepares his team for all parts of getting his players to perform at their best - in mind, body, and spirit.”
An NFL coach in the middle of the playoffs discussing a collegiate wrestling program? Yes, because he wanted to learn from the best.
I am a fan of Penn State Wrestling, but I also try to look at the program from the viewpoint of a university trustee. A trustee, by the way, who has a fiduciary responsibility to make sure program funds are spent in a productive manner. How does Penn State Wrestling measure up?
I’m Barry Fenchak, and I need your help.
To be listed on the April 2022 Penn State Alumni Trustee ballot, I need 250 nominations from Penn State alumni. Alumni have been emailed nominating ballots and can submit them now through February 25th. Please nominate me, Barry J Fenchak, 1984 Engineering. If you didn’t receive a nomination ballot email please click here or call the Penn State Trustee office at (814) 865-2521.
I appreciate your support.
It has often been said that collegiate athletics serve as the ‘front porch’ to a university. Meaning that athletics, both successes and failures, attract the public’s attention and serve as a source of student and alumni bonding. In this case, Penn State could not hope for a better ambassador than Cael Sanderson and the Penn State Wrestling program.
Of course there are all those National Championship trophies (8 in the last 10 years), but it’s more than that. Sanderson led his squad to unprecedented levels of success while running a program whose achievements, and whose student-athletes, have served to enhance and broaden the Penn State brand. Last year the team earned a 100% mark in Federal Graduation Rate, the only Big Ten wrestling program to do so (the average for all other Big Ten wrestling programs was 67%), and a 100% mark in the NCAA’s Graduation Success Rate for the 4th straight year.
As a contrast, last year the Penn State athletic program overall had a 79% Federal Graduation Rate (Academic Results for NCAA Programs), with the football program at 71% and men’s basketball at 56%.
Sanderson runs his program without consuming or demanding large outlays of resources. Penn State wrestles at the highest level in the nation yet competes in 96 year old Rec Hall (seating capacity 6,500 athough I think they squeeze a few more on on match nights). On the rare occasions the team gets the keys to the Bryce Jordan Center, the normally cavernous 16,000 seat arena fills to the brim with fans and energy.
In total, Penn State Wrestling is a world-class program in every way, yet maintained on an amatuer athletic’s budget. Perhaps it’s not so strange that an NFL coach showed up on Cael Sanderson’s doorstep looking for answers.